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Women’s soccer’s 14 incoming freshmen to bring depth, national experience to program

UCLA women’s soccer lost in the semifinals of the College Cup in 2019. In 2020, they welcome the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)

By Taiyo Keilin

May 28, 2020 5:17 pm

In 2019, the Bruins boasted the second-best recruiting class across America – headlined by forward Mia Fishel whose 14 goals were good for sixth best in the Pac-12. This year, it did one better.

After finishing the 2019 season just a win shy from a shot at a national championship, UCLA will welcome the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation to Westwood.

However, the 14 incoming freshmen have to replace the 17 goals and 32 assists recorded by the players who have now left the program.

Goalkeeper Kelly McManus from Long Beach, California, will join the three remaining goalkeepers from last year’s squad, and the four will battle it out in training to see who will earn the starting spot, occupied for the last four years by graduating senior Teagan Micah. In her tenure with UCLA, the Australian international Micah stopped 248 shots in 84 games, while only allowing 68 goals.

Associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Sam Greene said that with a new, experienced goalkeeper coach, the culture in training should promote competition between the players battling for minutes between the pipes.

“What’s nice about our goalkeeping environment is we have a new goalkeeper coach, Saskia Webber, who was on the 1999 World Cup team, so she knows what it’s like to push (the starter) and get that training environment that you need,” Greene said. “We expect (McManus) to come in and really push for that (No. 1) spot.”

The Bruins have two new defenders coming to the program – Jordyn Gather hailing from Ladera Ranch, CA, and My Haugland Sørsdahl from Kolbotn IL, a club team in her native Norway. The latter has 23 appearances for the Norwegian national team, playing from the U-16 to U-19 age groups. Greene said she anticipates that the Norwegian will be fighting for a starting spot as soon as she arrives on campus.

UCLA will have to replace four-year starter Kaiya McCullough, who was drafted by the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

The midfield is where UCLA will be welcoming the most new faces, as six midfielders are set to join the program. Jen Alvarado, Isabel Loza and Michaela Rosenbaum join the team from throughout California, while the other three are Aislynn Crowder from Hawaii, Dasia Torbert from Georgia and Clara Härdling from Sweden all come from outside the Golden State.

Head coach Amanda Cromwell and Greene will look to mix and match incoming midfielders and those returning from injury with senior midfielder Viviana Villacorta – who started all 24 of the Bruins’ matches in 2019 – in order to make up for the absence of graduating seniors Jessie Fleming and Anika Rodriguez. Fleming played in 75 games in the blue and gold and was a four-year starter, despite missing time for international duty with Canada. Greene said that she played a vital role for the Bruins and replacing her will be no easy task.

“We’re looking for the right partnerships, and obviously we can’t replace (Fleming), but hopefully we can throw some numbers at it and find what chemistry works,” Greene said. “Our incoming kids are full of national team experience and will be pushing that group as well. If you’re looking at (the) deepest positions on the team, midfield is one of them.”

Up front, the Bruins will add two full-time forwards in Kaila Novak and Reilyn Turner, and three more forward/midfielders with Megan Edelman, Jillian Martinez and MacKenzee Vance.

Amongst those whose contributions will need to be replaced are departing forwards Ashley Sanchez and Chloe Castaneda, the Bruins’ second- and third-highest goal scorers a season ago, respectively.

Sanchez also recorded a program-record 12 and 15 assists in her sophomore and junior seasons – en route to a school-best 42 career assists – before signing a professional contract with the Washington Spirit in January.

Greene said UCLA got talented players that fit the program and is proud of the team’s recruitment this year.

“Our mentality with recruiting is to always get the best players on the board, and obviously the best players with a character that fits UCLA and what it means to be a Bruin,” Greene said.

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Taiyo Keilin | Assistant Sports editor
Keilin is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's soccer, cross country, women's golf and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, women's golf and men's golf beats.
Keilin is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's soccer, cross country, women's golf and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, women's golf and men's golf beats.
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